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Article

Meredith Stensland, Sara Sanders, and Marla Berg-Weger

Advance care planning (ACP) is the process of determining and documenting desired wishes for the end of one’s life. Referred to by such terms as end-of-life planning, advance (health) directives, and living wills, ACP is a relatively new concept within our society, having emerged as a social, political, and ethical issue in the United States only since the 1960s. Researchers and legislators have been challenged in their efforts to examine healthcare decision-making and design appropriate policy to guide practice. This article will define ACP, provide an overview of the history and evolution of the process and the associated legal and ethical issues, and describe the process with three specific populations. In addition, it examines the role of the social work profession in working with individuals and families on planning for the end of one’s life.

Article

Linda P. Darrell

The perspective of end-of-life care has changed over the years. People are living longer, fuller lives due to advanced medical care and technology along with an increased interest in healthier lifestyles. The focus of end-of-life care has expanded to include accidental and sudden, unexpected death, chronic illness, anticipated death from longevity, and illnesses impacting children. An expanded perspective of end-of-life care must account for the challenges and changes of service delivery within a multi-cultural 21st-century milieu. The significance of advanced medical technology and improved lifestyles is an important component of a primary multidisciplinary assessment to understand the impact of such a life-altering occurrence as end-of-life care. Equally as important is a culturally inclusive perspective to accommodate the significance of longevity due to improved lifestyles, advanced medical technology, ethnicity, spirituality, and racial awareness. This article will explore the multiple concerns surrounding end-of-life care issues from an expansive worldview.

Article

Ellen L. Csikai

As medical technology advances producing the ability to prolong life almost indefinitely, individuals and families are asked to make increasingly complex choices about what treatments best correspond to their conceptions of how they wish to die. These decisions create a need for attention to medical aspects as well as psychosocial consequences. Social workers play pivotal roles in ensuring access to needed information and resources and in safeguarding individuals' rights to self-determination in end-of-life decisions. This entry discusses issues related to advance care planning, the process of end-of-life decision making, and social work roles with individuals, families, and health care providers.

Article

Donald M. Linhorst

Consumers of health and mental health services are afforded numerous legal rights. Broad categories of rights include self-determination, access to health information, protections for mental health consumers who are hospitalized, and a right to community integration. Two areas of consumer rights are emerging: a greater emphasis on human rights, and the right of consumers to participate in developing and implementing programs and services within the organizations from which they receive services. Various means for enforcing rights exist in both the private and the public sectors. Social workers play critical roles in ensuring that consumer rights become a reality.